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Sci Tech    H4'ed 3/30/19

Daily Inspiration — I led two lives

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Carl Zimmer has written about the prevalence of metamorphism in the animal world much more common than I had ever imagined.


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He writes about the work of Hanna ten Brink in the Netherlands, which begins from the conservative framework of most evolutionary biologists today, the selfish gene ideology. She starts from the premise that animals maximize their individual fitness, meaning they try to reproduce as much as possible. Her conclusion, then, is that animal species can eat more total food if they have access to two different ecological niches.

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...animals pay a steep price to go through metamorphosis. They burn a lot of calories to tear apart the old anatomy and develop a new one. There's a chance that this complicated process will go awry, leaving them with defects.

Metamorphosis also takes time, leaving animals vulnerable to predators and parasites. In many cases, Dr. ten Brink and her colleagues found, the cost of metamorphosis is too high for it to be favored by natural selection.

"You have to get back something really good," she said.

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In my reearch, I have been skeptical of the selfish gene ideology, and I have promoted the radical thinking of Lynn Margulis. I think Lynn is correct that the way metamorphosis evolves is not by one species reaching out into two niches, but by two entirely different species merging their genomesperhaps hard to imagine on its face, but Lynn cites a "paper trail" from the genome.

And what is the fitness payoff for the merger? My theory is that it solves an ecological problem. Adults are much larger, stronger, more experienced and more robust than their offspring. It is hard for the young to grow up if to do so they must compete with larger and stronger versions of themselves. Metamorphosis is a way to take the young out of competition with their elders, who have an unfair advantage. It is thus about preserving the species, not the individual.

 

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Josh Mitteldorf, a senior editor at OpEdNews, blogs on aging at http://JoshMitteldorf.ScienceBlog.com. Read how to stay young at http://AgingAdvice.org.
Educated to be an astrophysicist, he has branched out from there to mathematical (more...)
 

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Daniel Geery

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Makes sense to me. I have long appreciated the late Dr. Margolis, who has done much to focus on symbosis both within and amongst species, as I understand it. Dawkins presents some hard core logic, which I appreciate, but I think he needs "wider angle" glasses. He is also far more of a humanitarian than I see him presented as in the media.

Submitted on Sunday, Mar 31, 2019 at 6:02:28 PM

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Chuck Nafziger

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Let's bring mayflies into this conversation about pluses and minuses of metamorphosis. Mayflies are of ancient design, among the first of flying insects. The adults do not even have functional mouth parts. Mayflies may live a year or two as teens, but only very short time as adults. In one species, the female adult lives less than five minutes. When the adults congregate for their orgy, all the fish and dragonflies feast. Seen backlit by the sun, the mating dance is ephemeral and beautiful. Competition does not seem to be a good descriptive word for this activity. It is much more like a celebration.

Submitted on Monday, Apr 1, 2019 at 6:07:50 AM

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